Thursday, October 23, 2008

We walked the Sky at the Grand Canyon Skywalk

I had been fascinated by reports of the Skywalk being built on the Hualapai Reservation at Grand Canyon West long before it was complete. In fact, several years ago I checked it out on because the only available pictures of it were artists' representations and it was rumored to be a hoax! I'm happy to report that it is as real as a heart attack but lots more fun!

Grand Canyon West is located several hours east of Las Vegas, past the Hoover Dam and pretty much completely in the absolute middle of nowhere. The roads are good until you get on the county road 21 miles from the Skywalk. The first 14 miles of that stretch is a horrible washboard of a gravel road. No houses, no turn-offs no nothing. Absolutely miserable and I REALLY had to pee! We went very slowly, like less than 20 miles per hour to avoid tearing out the bottom of our rental car. We thought it was going to be like that the entire way to the Skywalk, but at mile 14 we crossed onto the Hualapai reservation and lovely smooth blacktop roads. Heaven. We later heard that both the state of Arizona and the Hualapai have put up their 6 million dollars to improve the bad road, but the county isn't coughing up its share.

We got there in the late afternoon and decided to take our turn out on the Skywalk right away. We parked in the designated area near the 'airport' and took the bus to the glass bridge. There was hardly anyone there and we had the place almost all to ourselves. I was pretty scared, but there was no way I was going to chicken out now. I looked straight ahead for the first 15-20 feet until I was directly over the 4000' abyss, then I looked straight down. It was a heartpoundingly spectacular view! They locked up all your personal effects (purse, camera, keys etc.) and gave you surgical booties to put over your shoes to keep the glass nice and clean. They had us wear the booties inside out and were they ever slippery! We sat down and reversed them so the grippy side pointed outwards and then it was lots better. (You really don't want to feel like you're falling on your butt at 4000 feet.) It was really cool to see birds fly below us. And the view was incredible. We had our picture taken where you can see the depths of the canyon below us. It was an experience I'll never forget as long as I live. I felt very brave to overcome my natural fear of heights and do it anyway. I highly recommend it!

We had reserved the Tranquility Package, which included both the Skywalk and a night at the Hualapai Ranch in one of their cabins. It was tranquil all right. We were there the night Ike hit Galveston and we had no TV, no radio, no phones and no cell phone reception. We didn't find out whether or not Galveston was still standing until tourists started trickling in the next day.

The accomodations were pretty basic, especially after living at the Venetian for a week.

The bed in the cabin with its combination AC/heat pump which doubled as a blow dryer in the morning. I think it's important to stay flexible and innovative while on vacation. lol

Here's the bed in our suite at the Venetian (with its 3 count'em 3 flat screen tv's. I mean, do you really need a flat screen tv while you're brushing your teeth? It was luxurious like I had never seen before!)

One thing special about the Hualapai ranch (besides the food, which was included in the price and EXCELLENT) was Norman. Remember the 80's movie, City Slickers, with Billy Crystal and how he came back to New York with a calf? That's Norman. He's ALL grown up now and on display at the ranch. Speaking of all grown up, did you know that Norman's co-star in the movie is none other than Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Billy Crystal's 10 year old son

Apparently Norman is still doing a little light cattle driving - days only. He seemed kinda grumpy while we were there, he didn't want to have his picture taken, even though he's a very handsome fellow. I think I got his Shirley Temple side in this shot.

They served excellent chow under the watchful eyes of this catamount. It was the best biscuits and gravy I have ever had. Apparently cholesterol doesn't concern the Hualapai, for which Larry and I were both thankful!

This tiny little horse was just adorable.There were lots of activities going on during the day at the ranch, I would think kids would have a ball. I seem to recall periodic cowboy gun battles and lots of horse back riding.

And on Friday night we had a campfire with an elder of the tribe. He told us stories (there were about 12 of us staying at the ranch) and answered any questions we had about the area and the tribe. He was very interesting and it was lots of fun. They had the makings for s'mores too. I think they've done this before! lol All the people that worked there (cowboys and indians) were exceptionally friendly and outgoing. They are obviously trying very hard to make your visit a pleasant one.

Larry and I hiked by ourselves to the rim from our cabin in the morning. The view was spectacular. It was amazing, no electrical wires or any signs of humanity for as far as the eye could see. The sky was frequently thick with helicopters though, they flitted around like big metal dragonflies.


Jeanne said...

Looks like a wonderful vacation. My friend told me it brought tears to her eyes when she was at the Grand Canyon - just so breathtakingly beautiful.

AMD said...

Thanks for sharing! We are headed there Easter week and about to book a room at the Ranch & I wanted to see some photos and get a good review first.